Plisse Fabric: Definition, Characteristics, and Uses

Clothes made with the plisse finish are both a wonder and a beauty. They come in artistically arranged folds that ebb and flow in an almost musical way.

Plisse fabric is lightweight and can be employed most fashionably by many designers. 

Plisse consists mainly of cotton fibers; like most cotton-based fabrics, they are popular for summer clothes.

But what is the origin of plisse fabric, and how are they produced? What is plisse fabric, in the first place? This article will answer these questions.

What is Plisse Fabric?

Plisse Fabric
Plisse Fabric

Plisse Fabric is any lightweight fabric chemically treated to give a wrinkled or puckered look. Cotton makes up most plisse fabric, but you can make plisse from other materials such as rayon, acetate, and other cotton blends on rare occasions.

The word ‘plisse’ comes from the French word ‘Fold’ or ‘pleat,’ and the name refers to the rumpled look of the plisse material. The folds are usually irregular but are generally parallel.

Although many materials can be manually pleated or folded to give that pleated look, the term ‘plisse’ traditionally applies to chemically treated fabric that looks crinkled.

Other names of Plisse fabric include crinkle crepe, crepon, blister crepe, or blister cloth. 

Plisse is a textured fabric, meaning that it has a distinctive tactile look and feel. They can either be knitted or woven.

Knitted plisse is made by interloping the yarns of fabrics in a way that forms symmetrical loops called blights. The blights give the knitted plisse fabric more elasticity.

Because of their appearance and elasticity, many people sometimes mistake knitted plisse for seersucker fabric. The difference between both fabrics lies in their production; while Plisse fabric comes from chemical treatment, the seersuckers come from weaved cotton.

Woven plisse uses a more straightforward loop, forming a diagonal or lengthwise loop. Woven Plisse has less elasticity but is also remarkably breathable.

The History of Plisse Fabric

The royals and nobles of Ancient Egypt were the first to wear plisse and other pleated materials; they usually wore them as a symbol of power and wealth. Due to the process involved, it was impossible to get to the masses.

Although details about the method used to make early plisse are sketchy, it is reasonably certain that the process was long and tedious. It was also temporary as the pleats disappeared as soon as the locals washed the clothes.

From Ancient Egypt, Plisse clothing spread to Ancient Europe. It soon became a favorite of aristocratic circles, with Queen Elizabeth among several prominent figures recorded to have worn one.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that pleating machines replaced the manual method of producing Plisse and pleats. 

The invention of pleating machines made pleats less expensive and more available for more members of society.

Today, only couture produces handmade pleats, which explains why they are expensive and only available for only the wealthier members of society.

Production of Plisse Fabric

Plisse Fabric

Plisse Fabric is obtained primarily through the action of chemical substances on cotton fabrics in a process called chemical finishing.

Chemical Finishing

This sort of finishing is the most basic method of creating Plisse. It involves using chemicals, especially caustic soda, to create patterns.

The caustic soda causes the materials to shrink where applied, creating folded patterns on the fabric. This method is most effective on cotton fabric.

Other methods used to produce folds in cotton include stitching, heat-pressing, and hand folding.

The Stitching Method

This process involves using a sewing machine to create folds in the fabrics. Parts of the fabrics are folded and sewed together to create distinct patterns.

There are different types of stitching:

Top Stitching 

In top stitching, the clothmaker or designer stitches the top of the fabric together to create closed pleats that open up when the wearer of the fabric moves. Designers mainly use top stitches to create accordion pleats.

Tuck Stitches

In this method, several stitches run through the fabric at regular intervals to create an open pleat with a regular pattern.


You can produce Gathering by running a large stitch called a basting stitch through the fabric and pulling it together at the end to form tight folds that run through the fabric.

There are different ways of doing Gathering, and techniques such as Ruche and Shirring can create different gathering pleats.

The Heat-Pressing Process

Heat-Pressing is a mechanical process of creating folds on fabrics. Although this process is popular, it doesn’t produce permanent folds in many plisse fabrics except polyester.

There are two ways of using the heat pressing method to produce plisse fabric.

Industrial or Machine Method

This method involves using large automated machines to imprint the folds on the fabric.

The machine operators place the fabric between two giant rolls of silk paper. The machine heats the silk papers and rolls them as specific pleat patterns, imprinting them on the fabric. 

Handmade or Cardboard Method

In this process, you can attain the folds entirely by hand. This process is almost similar to the mechanical process and involves using two cardboard or Kraft papers with pleat patterns.

The fabric designers place the fabric between the already pleated cardboard or Kraft papers and heat or steam them until the fabric can take up the folds of the board or paper.

Note: The heat pressing method usually works hand in hand with the stitching method. Designers usually stitch pleats either before or after heat pressing.

The Hand Folding Method

Only experts can produce this fold as the process is tedious and expensive. It consists of combinations of the three previous methods depending on the hand folding technique.

Many fabric companies and designers have developed several hand-folding techniques to produce different folds.

The Draping technique relies heavily on stitches, while Fortuny produces its pleats using a complex combination of chemical, stitching, and heat pressing processes.

Types of Plisse Fabric

Type of Plisse Fabric

Although all Plisse fabrics come from chemical finishing, you can only distinguish the types of plisse by the fold patterns of these finishes.

Here are some fold patterns or pleats from plisse fabric.

Box Pleats 

These are singular and outward-facing pleats. They are usually double-layered and often folded close together. It can be created by pressing equal distances of fabrics together. 

Inverted Pleats

These are often box pleats that are upside down, with the folds facing inward instead of outward like the box pleats.

Examples of inverted pleats include kick pleats, used to produce splits in tight short skirts.

Accordion Pleats

Accordion pleats are one of the most popular and striking pleats made on plisse fabric. They are evenly spaced pleats that comprise both box and inverted pleats.


These are tiny pleats produced for no other reason than to add interest and texture to the fabric. Makers of these pleats aim to achieve a three-dimensional feel. We can usually see pintucks in clothes such as tuxedo shirts.

Uses of Plisse Fabric

Plisse Fabric is used predominantly in the clothing and fashion industry to make intricate designs in tuxedo shirts, skirts, lingerie, cardigans, T-shirts, dresses, and blouses.

Some couture houses have even turned out all plisse collections, like the famous Japanese designer Issue Miyake who ran the Pleats Please collection in 1993.

The fabric is also used in home decor to produce elegant curtains and drapes (or draperies) designs.

Quilters have also discovered that they could use pleats in some quilt designs and other forms of patchwork.

Washing and Caring For Plisse Fabric

Plisse Fabric is delicate and requires careful handling if you want to preserve its quality and pleats.

A great way to do this is by treating stains immediately. Spot clean them with a clean white cloth if the stains are not too heavy. Be careful not to rub the fabric while doing this forcefully. You can use a stain remover or a liquid detergent when spot cleaning. 

You can hand wash your Plisse Fabric or use a washing machine. When washing by hand, use cold water and a mild liquid detergent. Rub the fabric gently with your hand.

Although hand washing is the most preferred method of washing Plisse, you can also use a washing machine as long as you set the washer to a gentle wash cycle. 

Preferably, a front loader would be ideal as it would exert less strain on the fabric. Do not wring or twist the fabric so you don’t spoil its traditional puckered design.

Avoid exposure to heat as much as possible. Flat dry the fabric on a dry towel or air dry on a suitable hanger or drying rack.

In a similar vein, do not iron a Plisse Fabric. Its naturally rumpled look is how it should be, and ironing could cause you to lose the folds of the fabric permanently. 

Use steam if you wish to straighten your Plisse a little after washing because steam iron will not damage the fabric. Another way you can steam Plisse fabric is by hanging it in your bathroom while you take a steam bathroom.

Store Plisse Fabrics in a cool plastic container lined by muslin or cotton sheets. The container should be well ventilated and not exposed to sunlight or artificial light.


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